Hello, my name is Sophie Rowney I was born in Middlesbrough in 1988. Most of my family were also born in Middlesbrough and we all have no plans to leave.
I grew up in Tollesby which I thoroughly enjoyed, (when I have driven through recently I am sad to see all the local shops are closed, making it very quiet and ghost-like.) I went to Green Lane Primary School which I thoroughly enjoyed and I still hold in high regard. I then continued on to Kings Manor Sports College (no longer there – Oakfields is the new school for that area) I loved the area surrounding Kings Manor – The 16th Century Acklam Hall, The Avenue of Trees and the expanse of green spaces and wild life surrounding the school, I remember my older brother telling me he had went to Acklam Hall when it used to be part of Kings Manor and I’d be green with envy, jealous that he’d been able to study in such a beautiful, old and charasmatic place. Even at a young age, I was always sad to look out the school windows at the hall and see that it wasn’t being used. I remember for one Geography assignment we had to do a page on how Middlesbrough came into existence – once I started researching our geographical history and how we came to be, I was hooked, and have been ever since. Middlesbrough’s history is so vibrant and exciting and I feel a lot of it isn’t celebrated.
In 2007 I went to St Mary’s College and at this point I had decided that I wanted to get into journalism/Tv Drama so continued my studies at York St John University studying Film & Television. Living in York was wonderful, an extreme change to the industrial town of Middlesbrough. Everything with any historical interest is preserved, conserved and celebrated in York. By now I had built up a clear picture of just how many buildings and areas had been destroyed in Middlesbrough which I would have loved to see today: The Tram System, Big Wesley, The Odeon, The Royal Infirmary, The Royal Exchange, The Scientific Institute, The Grand Opera Theatre, to name but a few. I felt impelled to actively help change Middlesbrough’s fate for the better. Firstly I asked the council if I could become an official ambassador for Middlebrough, next I made an amateure documentary called ‘The Good, The Bad & The Boro’ for my final project at University, where I interviewed people from different walks of life and asked them frankly about what they thought about their home town. I also volunteered to clean up Albert Park. I completed 3 weeks work experience with the Press Office department of Middlesbrough Council and I actively promoted the town throughout my day to day life.
After finishing my degree in 2010, I worked on films and tv dramas in London, Manchester, Loughborough, Durham and Leeds, none of which were close to my beloved Middlebrough. Four years later, after working my way up to being a Location Assistant I chose to leave Film and Tv and reside back in Middlesbrough, working full time helping with the expansion of my family’s business – Concept; a home accessories, furniture, jewellery & gift boutique on Linthorpe Road. I’ve always admired where Concept is situated, it’s on the same strip as other great long-established business’ and restaurants and it’s a hop and skip away from Sacred Heart Church, Albert Park, Dorman Museum, War Memorial Wall and the Cenotaph. Not much has been destroyed in this area and this is eveident by the attractive Victorian terraces, museum, park and artchitecture still in tact and in use. It is one of the most inviting strips of Linthorpe Road and nearly all the business’ are ran by independents adding a great sense of community and character to the place. Some of the business’ here have been established for over 20 years which is fantastic for the area and is a welcome change to empty buildings and shutters.
So this is where it gets exciting. After meeting an inspiring woman – Scarlet, at a public meeting about the housing development on Acklam Hall she introduced me to Hands on Middlesbrough – a fantastic group which gives the public a voice for Middlesbrough’s surviving heritage and a place to talk about ideas for regenerating the town.
The idea I had was that from Dermagraphix Tattoo shop up to Fellinis Restaurant and round to The Cenotaph, Albert Park, Museum and Sacred Heart Church, to be the ‘VICTORIAN QUARTER’ of Middlesbrough. A mini echo of the Victoria Quarter of Leeds, but a huge echo of the Middlesbrough’s very own Victorian past. With added Victorian touches such as Victorian flag signs (similar to the fabulous ones on Baker Street promoting their creative, vintage quarter), a Victorian Street Clock, Victorian sun shades over shops/business fronts of those who are interested, Victorian shop numbers and most prominently Victorian shop signs which would hang above each shop. Also Victorian street lamps and benches would be a beautiful feature, they are already in place around the Cenotaph but it would be great to continue this on to Linthorpe Road. Recently we found out that there will be a monument built near the Cenotaph celebrating the local hero that is Stanley Hollis for being decorated with the Victoria Cross so this is further great news for the area!
I have spoken to the lovely customers we get in Concept about the Victorian Quarter idea and they’ve been wonderfully supportive and have given great feedback. It would help tie in the Victorian section inside the Dorman Museum, the historical interest of the area, the local events and the mix of food, services and leisure on offer coupled with a unique setting of fantastic Victorian architecture. It’s a great place for locals and tourists to come and enjoy. Recently I have found out that the cafe in Dorman Museum closed, however I am thrilled to say there is interest from a new buiness looking to move in and open it as a Victorian-themed cafe which would tie in beautifully.
Below is a link and excerpt from an interesting article written in 2012 in the Evening Gazette about our heritage.
“However it was the town planners of the 1960s and 1970s who radically altered the Victorian town out of virtually all recognition, and many would say not for the better. Surely there could have been a better plan than driving a dual carriageway straight through the centre? This is why so many people lament the destruction of so much in the past few decades. Middlesbrough had a wonderful Victorian heritage but sadly much of it has now gone forever.”
So with this knowledge one of my ideas would be to promote and preserve this collection of Victorian buildings, as they are grouped together perfectly, there are other beautiful Victorian buildings in the town but none with such a vibrant mix and with each plot in use.
Some of the shops still have all of the Victorian shop frontage in tact, for example – The Antique and Fireplace shop and Bedroom Images. The tall Victorian terraces which line the street and Sacred Heart Church and Dorman Museum which matches in height and presence, make for great atmosphere. Along with free parking for clientele, I think it could be a great venture.
“A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead, American cultural anthropologist.
If you have any feedback or any of your own ideas to put forward to this project, please email me – firstname.lastname@example.org